Triangle Arts and Entertainment – News and Reviews Theatre Dance Music Arts

The Crucible at PlayMakers Rep Is Arthur Miller’s Cautionary Tale About the Salem Witch Trials’ Rush to Judgment

PlayMakers Repertory Company mainstay Jeffrey Blair Cornell (center) stars as Deputy Governor and Salem Witch Trials chief judge Thomas Danforth (photo by Jon Gardiner)

PlayMakers Repertory Company mainstay Jeffrey Blair Cornell (center) stars as Deputy Governor and Salem Witch Trials chief judge Thomas Danforth in The Crucible (photo by Jon Gardiner)

For the second production of its 2016-17 mainstage season, PlayMakers Repertory Company is staging a modern-dress theater-in-the-round production of The Crucible a timely topical drama by American dramatist, screenwriter, and essayist Arthur Miller (1915-2005), on Oct. 19-23, and 25-30 and Nov. 1-4 and 6 in the Paul Green Theatre in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Dramatic Art. A cautionary tale about the rush to judgment at the Salem Witch Trials (1692-93), The Crucible is a parable of moral courage in a time of intolerance and mass hysteria, when the criminal justice system was perverted by a few individuals seeking public vengeance and/or private personal gain.

In reviewing the 2002 Broadway revival of the 1953 drama, directed by Richard Eyre and starring Liam Neeson and Laura Linney as John and Elizabeth Proctor, Kelly Monaghan wrote in The Intrepid Travelogue: “One sure hallmark of a classic is its ability to speak to succeeding generations. By that measure, Arthur Miller’s searing parable … is destined to resonate for centuries to come. Certainly, there are moments in the play that hit today’s … audience with the force of a breaking news bulletin… Barely 50 years after it was written, Miller’s play has assumed the lofty stature of a much older masterpiece. Its wisdom seems ancient, its scope Shakespearean….”

Shanelle Nicole Leonard (center) stars as Tituba, the Rev. Parris' slave from Barbados, who was accused of witchcraft, "confessed," and went mad in prison (photo by Jon Gardiner)

Shanelle Nicole Leonard (center) stars as Tituba, the Rev. Parris’ slave from Barbados, who was accused of witchcraft, “confessed,” and went mad in prison (photo by Jon Gardiner)

According to preshow publicity by PlayMakers Repertory Company:

Vivienne Benesch, PlayMakers‘ producing artistic director, states, ‘I am thrilled to be producing The Crucible at this particular moment in time. Not only was The Crucible part of PlayMakers‘ first professional season 40 years ago, giving us the opportunity to revisit a play that paved the way to PlayMakers becoming the nationally recognized theater it is today, but the play’s masterful convergence of politics, religion, sex, greed and mass hysteria is as relevant today in the face of our upcoming election as it was when Miller wrote this cautionary tale about the Salem witch trials in the face of 1950’s McCarthyism.’

“Benesch adds, ‘I hope this production can illuminate for us, individually and as a community, the dangers of remaining silent and the risks involved in pursuing a principled citizenry.’

Justin Haslett, PlayMakers‘ new managing director, states, ‘I am excited to be a part of a theater company with such a rich and storied legacy of presenting transformative performances that illuminate the human spirit. I love the experience of seeing a production in the Paul Green Theatre — the deep thrust design of the stage area always provides our artists with unique opportunities to interact with our audiences in ways a traditional proscenium doesn’t allow. For The Crucible, PlayMakers will expand the boundaries of the stage even further by adding a new section of seating behind the traditional stage. This theater-in-the-round experience will provide our audience and artists with a fresh perspective for the space and new ways to connect and engage with one another.'”

Ariel Shafir and Sarita Ocón star as John and Elizabeth Proctor in <em>The Crucible</em> -- a married couple ho were falsely accused of practicing witchcraft and went to the gallows (photo by Jon Gardiner)

Ariel Shafir and Sarita Ocón star as John and Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible — a married couple ho were falsely accused of practicing witchcraft and went to the gallows (photo by Jon Gardiner)

Also according to PlayMakers Rep:

The Crucible will feature Ariel Shafir as John Proctor (recently on stage in Marie Antoinette at Steppenwolf Theatre, on film in Evil Nature directed by Darin Beckstead, and soon to be on screen in an episode in the upcoming season 4 of Orange Is the New Black) and Sarita Ocón as Elizabeth Proctor (recently in Alicia’s Miracle at Tides Theatre, Bengal Tiger at the San Francisco Playhouse, and Ghosts of the River at Shadowlight Productions), the tragic couple at the heart of Miller’s dark fable.

“Returning to perform are many PlayMakers company favorites: Ray Dooley as Giles Corey (Sweeney Todd, Three Sisters, and Peter and the Starcatcher); Jeffrey Blair Cornell as Deputy Governor Danforth (Sweeney Todd, Peter and the Starcatcher, and An Enemy of the People); David Adamson as Francis Nurse (Three Sisters, An Enemy of the People, and Trouble in Mind), Allison Altman as Abigail Williams (Three Sisters, An Enemy of the People, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream); Daniel Bailin as Ezekiel Cheever (Three Sisters, Peter and the Starcatcher, and An Enemy of the People); Benjamin Curns as Thomas Putnam (Sweeney Todd, Three Sisters, and Peter and the Starcatcher); Julia Gibson as Mrs. Anne Putnam and Sara Good (An Enemy of the People, Into the Woods, and Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike); Kathryn Hunter-Williams as Rebecca Nurse (Trouble in Mind, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Into The Woods); and Schuyler Scott Mastain as Reverend John Hale (Sweeney Todd, We Are Proud to Present…, and Three Sisters).

“Making their PlayMakers debut are: Natalie Cabo as Mercy Lewis, Gabriella Cila as Betty Parris, Geoff Culbertson as Hopkins, Calliope George as Susanna Walcott, Alex Givens as Marshal Herrick, Shanelle Nicole Leonard as Tituba, Christine Mirzayan as Mary Warren, Jim Moscater as Reverend Parris, and Tristan Parks as Judge Hathorne.

“The [PlayMakers Repertory Company] creative team for The Crucible includes: Desdemona Chiang (director), Narelle Sissons (scenic designer), Grier Coleman (costume designer), Josh Epstein (lighting designer), Eric Collins (sound designer), Mark Perry (dramaturg), Tracey Bersley (movement consultant), John Patrick (voice coach), Charles K. Bayang (stage manager), and Hannah-Jean Farris (assistant stage manager)….

The Crucible will be performed in theater-in-the-round. An additional seating section was designed exclusively for this production to further enhance audience engagement with this classic play. This newly designed section is located behind the stage and contains a total of 44 seats. Please call the Box Office at 919-962-7529 for more information on this select seating for a never-before seen perspective on a PlayMakers production. Tickets are limited and will sell out fast.”

The Salem Witchcraft Trials unleashed a two-year tidal wave of hysteria in which 20 of the more than 200 people accused of practicing witchcraft were executed (photo by Jon Gardiner)

The Salem Witchcraft Trials unleashed a two-year tidal wave of hysteria in which 20 of the more than 200 people accused of practicing witchcraft were executed (photo by Jon Gardiner)

SECOND OPINION: Oct. 18th Chapel Hill, NC Chapelboro.com/WCHL interview with director Desdemona Chiang and actress Sarita Ocón, conducted by Aaron Keck: http://chapelboro.com/news/arts/crucible-opens-at-playmakers; Oct. 13th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/timeless-the-crucible-set-in-the-round/article_9c0ab804-90ba-11e6-8e90-97b086a29382.html (Note: You must subscribe to read this article); Oct. 6th Chapel Hill, NC Daily Tar Heel (student newspaper) preview by Nic Rardin: http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2016/10/playmakers-crucible-1006; and Sept. 30th Raleigh, NC News & Observer mini-preview: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article104977596.html.

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents THE CRUCIBLE at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19-21 Previews, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 23 Opening Night, 2 p.m. Oct. 24, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25-29, 2 p.m. Oct. 30, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1-4, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 6 in the Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art, , 150 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.

TICKETS: $15 and up ($10 UNC students and $12 other college students), with discounts for UNC faculty and staff and U.S. military personnel, except $15 (general admission) Tuesday Community Night performances.

BOX OFFICE: 919-962-PLAY, prcboxoffice@unc.edu, or https://tickets.playmakersrep.org/.

GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919-962-PLAY (7529), prcgroups@unc.edu, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/groupsales.

SHOW: http://playmakersrep.org/show/the-crucible/.

PRESENTER: http://www.playmakersrep.org/, https://www.facebook.com/playmakersrep, https://twitter.com/playmakersrep, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayMakers_Repertory_Company, and http://www.youtube.com/user/PlayMakersRep.

PRC BLOG (Page to Stage): http://playmakersrep.blogspot.com/.

VENUE: http://playmakersrep.org/aboutus/paulgreen.

DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://playmakersrep.org/visitorinfo.

NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices will be available at all performances.

NOTE 2: There will be a gala opening-night performance, starting at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22nd.

NOTE 3: There will be an All-Access Performance, with sign-language interpretation and audio description by Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 25th.

NOTE 4: There will be FREE post-show discussions with members of the cast and creative team following the show’s 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26th, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30th, performances.

NOTE 5: There will be an Open Captioning Performance at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29th (for more information, click here).

OTHER LINKS:

The Crucible (1953 drama): http://www.ibiblio.org/miller/works.html (Arthur Miller Society page), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/the-crucible-2847 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crucible (Wikipedia).

The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).

Study Guide: http://www.us.penguingroup.com/static/pdf/teachersguides/crucible.pdf (Penguin Group).

Arthur Miller (American dramatist, screenwriter, and essayist, 1915-2005): http://www.ibiblio.org/miller/ (Arthur Miller Society), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/arthur-miller-4316 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0007186/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Miller (Wikipedia).

Desdemona Chiang (Seattle/San Francisco-based PRC guest director): http://www.desdemona.org/blog/ (official website), http://playmakersrep.org/artists/desdemona-chiang/ (PRC bio), https://www.facebook.com/deschiang (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/deschiang (Twitter page).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing robertm748@aol.com and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail robertm748@aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)

Tagged as: , , , , , , ,

Categorised in: Features, Lead Story, Theatre Feature